Sunday, October 15, 2017

Captain Phillip, Fisher of Men

Earlier this month the boys and I treated Kevin to a guided fishing trip on Lake Conroe, our birthday gift to him.  Our captain for the morning was a man named Phillip.  We had just boarded the boat and strapped on the life jackets when Phillip shared that his daughter, Ashley, had passed away the day before.  Kevin and I looked at each other, not quite sure what to say or think.  Here we sat with a grieving father, expecting him to spend the next five hours with us, teaching us and guiding us in the ways of catfish.  And, oh, by the way, please be in a good mood with us and super patient because our boys ask A LOT of questions.

So I said, "Captain Phillip, what are you doing here??  Are you sure you're up for this today?"  And his response, "I've got to pay for the funeral.  And I know where she is."

Phillip, it turns out, is much more than a fishing guide.  Phillip and his wife have 7 children and 16 grandchildren between the two of them.  And Phillip is a missionary.  A modern day Peter, James or John, he laid down his competitive fishing net many years ago to begin his ministry.  He's traveled to Africa, Fiji, Russia, Honduras, slept on the dirt and dined with peasants. 

"Phillip," I said, "You are LITERALLY a fisher of men."

As the morning went on, Phillip talked about his family, his daughter and his life experiences.  He quoted scripture and shared some of the many times he's seen God actively moving in his life.  He talked about burying his parents, both of his brothers and now the task ahead of him...burying his daughter.  When we loaded the car and left the marina Michael turned to me and said, "That man is a CHRISTIAN!"

Captain Phillip has traveled all over the world to spread the Gospel, but I'm willing to bet his biggest mission field is right there on Lake Conroe.  Can you imagine your workplace in the same way?  We think mission work has to require a suitcase and months of fundraising, but what if God's biggest job for you is where you are right now?  Who is God putting in your path today that needs to know, even on your hardest day, about the truth of Christ's love? 

"For He has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7 

Be bold!!  Be courageous.  Be a fisherman, wherever you are. 

XOXO...Kelly










Thursday, September 14, 2017

I don't like noise.

It might come to surprise you that I, having been blessed with 4 wonderful boys, don't handle noise well.  Truly.  I turn the radio off when we get in the car.  I don't like loud restaurants or clubs.  I think surround-sound speakers were made by the devil.  God has given me the heart and patience to miraculously ignore the constant pounding, banging and shouting that often comes from our upstairs game room (they are, after all, making memories up there....) but that's about it.

And I'm not much good with the other type of noise in life either.  The kind of noise that comes from monogrammed YMCA team shirts (you all know how I feel about that), birthday parties for adults, most smart phone apps, preschool graduation ceremonies, 5th grade graduation ceremonies, professional football players (excluding, obviously, JJ Watt who is rumored to be taking over Lakewood Church from Joel Osteen), gender reveal parties, competitive cheerleading and wedding reception party favors.

On a daily basis I struggle with walking the ever-thinning line of living--in the example of Christ--in this world but not of it.  How do you do it...cut out or stand against the things that don't matter, that you don't believe in, without being a total social pariah??  And I'm not even talking about BIG things here.  Martin Luther King Jr. stood against segregation.  I'm only talking about cupcakes on the last day of school and yet it is so difficult!

One thing I've found in the wake of the mess Harvey left behind is that it's becoming a lot easier to say no to what doesn't matter.  I don't believe God intends bad things for his people, but I do believe He uses tragedy to refine us in ways that abundance can not.  Sometimes the most desperate times for a community are the times of most clarity.  We see need in a different way, give no second thought to filling it, and walk closer to God in the way we love others.

I want recovery for those affected by these storms.  I want it so badly.  But I am not eager to return to life complicated by the things that do not matter.  I don't want schedules that are so over-booked that the thought of dropping things to help a neighbor goes unentertained.  I don't want pressure to spend money on what will be dust and ashes instead of life-giving bread for others.  I don't want the WHAT to be more important that the WHO in our lives.  I want a new normal, as our pastor puts it.

I want the Kingdom of Christ.  At any cost.

Lord Jesus, heal our wounds and repair the brokenness in our lives.  Restore our homes and our community, but not to the way things used to be.  Use this time of hardship to bring us closer to you, God, and to the kind of world you'd have us live in.  Let us cling to the lessons you are teaching us right now, the goodness you are making of this mess.  And let it change from the inside out.  Amen.

XOXO...Kelly



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Home

Well, friends, it's been quite a few weeks.  If you're keeping track, Hurricane Harvey blew into the gulf and onto land in Southeast Texas about 10 days ago and then, like a great big a*hole, stuck around the Houston area for 5 days only to go back out into the gulf, re-fuel and then come back onto land devastating more areas east of here.  Record rainfall has caused monumental flooding in homes and businesses and displaced thousands upon thousands of people. 

And as we in Houston band together to try to clean up all this mess (there are now about 5,000 different Houston strong t-shirts and car decals that can be purchased to benefit flood victims and Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale and JJ Watt have been asked to take over as pastors of Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church), Hurricane Irma--Harvey's sister who apparently got even less love than he did growing up--has morphed into the biggest a*hole of them all, setting its sights on destroying Florida. 

I'm now up to three cups of coffee in the morning and 4 glasses of wine at night and my new parenting strategy sounds something like this...."Do not hit your brother!  There are children without homes and schools!" 

About mid-way through the storm I read an excerpt from AW Tozer on being at home with Christ.  Tozer talks about a Christian brother from Thailand who, in describing the godly life of one of the missionaries he worked with says, "He is in the Father's house now."  Tozer wrote...

What a vision for a humble Christian who only a generation before had been a pagan, worshiping idols and spirits—and now because of grace and mercy he talks about the Father's house as though it were just a step away, across the street.  This is the gospel of Christ—the kind of Christianity I believe in. What joy to discover that God is not mad at us and that we are His children....

Home will have a different meaning for many people now.  Some will return to just a shell of the former house they occupied--the walls and floors eventually restored, but emptied of most of its contents.  Some will not return at all. 


My Father's house has many rooms...And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.—John 14:2, 3

I do not know what to say to comfort those that are displaced right now, who have thrown away photo albums and furniture and family heirlooms.  I don't know what to say to someone sleeping in a shelter that might make them feel secure.  But I do know that there is a vast difference in the kind of shelter afforded by this world, built by our own human hands, and the of the kind of shelter provided by Christ.  As I look around my own home, filled and decorated with things I like and maybe even love (as much as you can love a chair and silver plated dachshund statue), I MUST remind myself that when the flood waters rise this is not my shelter.  My shelter is now and forever will be in Jesus Christ. 

Lord, there is much to pray for, so much to ask.  Be with those in recovery right now and with those that might be facing it in the days and storm ahead.  Let me remember that You are on your throne as much now as you have ever been.  Build a shelter around me, God, made of love and mercy and grace, one that will not fail.  And when I see someone in need, help me to proclaim your gospel in word and in deed, that this shelter would be theirs as well.  To the glory of Your name.  AMEN.

XOXO...Kelly



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

In the beginning...

How's your summer going so far?  I'm having a hard time believing it's already July!  I feel like I crammed a lot of activity into the month of June and there's still a lot more to be crammed in before school starts. 

Recently we returned home from a trip to a house that smelled like skunk and a car that wouldn't start.  One of our dachshunds, Cordie, was sprayed just before we left for our road trip--as in at 5am, 30 minutes before our car was to hit the road.  We cleaned her and the house the best we could before we left.  God bless our dog sitter because I don't know what you know about skunk smell but it does not go down without a fight.  We're now two weeks out from the incident and I still catch faint whiffs of it throughout the house.


So there was that.  And then the car that wouldn't start and the cracked windshield on another vehicle that had to be replaced and a bunch of home projects I'm trying to catch up on and finish plus jobs and July 4 holidays and birthdays to plan, etc., etc., etc.  It's not that I'm complaining about all of this--these are the busy things that make up life right now and they each have their place, challenges or not.  (Well, maybe the skunk.  I'm definitely complaining about the skunk.)  I believe God meets us where we are.  I believe He's as much a part of the laundry in my house as He is worship on Sunday morning. 

But darned if I've not completely lost sight of that.

Do you ever have those moments, when you feel so very far away from God and so very close to chaos?  Sometimes I write the word "peace" on my hand when I'm feeling like I need a little extra help remembering it.  I did that the other day.  Then I mopped and wiped up skunk smell for 10 hours and it got washed off. 
 
So this morning I tried a different approach.  I began at the beginning. 

I took my Bible outside and read Genesis 1.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep.  And in that darkness, over that formless, deep, empty space the Spirit of God hovered, and His voice spoke, and light appeared. 

Can you imagine that?  God's voice?  In the dark, in the deep, in the emptiness comes the spirit of something so powerful that the only response to such an instrument is creation??

The light is separated from darkness creating day and night.  The heavens make way from the waters and the waters make way for land.  The seas and skies and earth are filled with creatures and plants and trees.  The sun and moon and stars are set upon the heavens so that seasons may come and time set in motion.  And man.  Created in His image, set apart and above, male and female, to multiply and govern and tend. 

Back to the beginning.  To the assurance that I am His.  That this world around me, the wind moving through the trees, the heat radiating off the ground, the day that turns to night and back into morning...it belongs to Him.  At the beginning of each day there will always be this, and always this when I lay my head down to rest at night. 

So that's my challenge to you.  In case you're having one of those days/weeks/months/years :) ...take your Bible outside and start at the beginning.  Where all that's required is God's voice and the rest just falls into place.

XOXO...Kelly


Thursday, June 1, 2017

All the Details

So it's been summer vacation now for seven days.  Seven days...and I've already begun to forget what silence is like.  I catch fleeting glimpses of it every now and then, like when I'm using the restroom.  But then someone knocks on the door to ask me for some Doritos and it's gone again.

When you have four children, the question-asking can get a little out of control.  In any given circumstance there's the potential for four times the amount of questions.  And NO ONE listens when someone else asks a question, so it's very likely I'll get the same question at least twice. 

For example, we are currently in the middle of the summer swim team season, which involves three different practices spread across two and a half hours and two different pools.  What I'd really love to do is just tell the boys when to be ready, have them actually be ready to go at that time, and drive them to practice in perfect obedience.  What actually happens is seven reminders to get ready, two trips back inside for forgotten goggles and someone getting grounded from video games for the rest of the day.  And then when we finally do get into the car it's, "What time does my practice start? How many minutes is it today? Why doesn't so-and-so have to practice as long? Do we have to go tomorrow, too? What time will you pick me up? Can I play at the playground afterwards? Are we going the right way??" 

Oh for the love of all Doritos....why don't they just do what I say and trust me??!!! 

As I drove to swim practice this morning I heard the Lord whisper to me, Ditto

For it is the truth that I badger Him the same way.  I am happy to follow in the direction He's sent me, but not without a full rundown of all the details first. 

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth,
Making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
Isaiah 55:8-11

Ditto, indeed. 

I do not drive my children aimlessly to swim practice, but with a plan and a purpose.  My God treats me no differently.  I long for the same trust of my children that God longs for from me.  My boys don't realize yet what a gift that kind of trust is, but surely I do.  Surely I can accept it, live into it and through it.

They'll figure it out some day, my kids.  They'll be sitting in the restroom somewhere when a tiny hand knocks on the door and asks them for a snack.  And then they'll know.  And maybe it will occur to them to call and thank me that day, knowing then what it's like to raise kids into trust and faith.  It's my hope for them, after all.  That they might know the same sort of blessings one day that they give to me, however loud and difficult they might be along the way. 

I'll think of them, of course, but I might not be available to take the call.  Because, Lord willing, Kevin and I will be on a beach somewhere, enjoying the silence.  With a big bag of Doritos.

XOXO.....Kelly



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sweet

Last week marked the end of our family's 9 year career in preschool.  Michael started in 2008, going one day a week for four hours.  I remember the morning before school his first day feeling so aware that we were entering a new era, where I would not be privy to every moment of my child's day, not overhear every conversation, be aware of every emotion and nuance.  I worked at the church where he attended preschool at that time and spent a good portion of the day peeking in at him, marveling that his life was going on just fine without me right there. 

The fact is I could not have made that transition into school life without the teachers and faculty taking care of my son.  Their capable hands, overwhelming patience and steady commitment to Michael at such a young age was not just a thing that made it easier.  It was THE thing.  And last week, as I walked Parker to the car on his final day, I felt overwhelmed with appreciation of their care. 

It's the end of an era for sure, and I've heard many describe such a milestone as bittersweet.  But for me it's just sweet. 

Sweet because my kids have enjoyed their time in preschool and loved their teachers.

Sweet because each person there who guided my children was, and will continue to be, a gift from God. 

Sweet because they are better people for their time spent there. 

And sweet because I know new adventures lie ahead.  They may not always be grand, good or easy adventures, but look at the foundation they've been given.

How can there possibly be room for bitter in all this??

Praise, Father, I have nothing but praise today.  For the people you've put in my babies' paths.  For the ways you've provided for them and the ways I know you always will.  Thank you for this piece of the greater puzzle.  In Your Name.....Amen.

XOXO....Kelly

Then (Michael's first day)...
....and now (Parker's last).  ❤


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cupcakes.

It was around this time last year that I was in the middle of one of the stupidest disagreements of perhaps my entire life.  Over cupcakes.  Yes.  Cupcakes.  And whether their presence was really all that necessary at the last day of school party at our elementary school.  I won't hash out the details for you here except to say that I don't care about cupcakes, and I really don't care about them on the last day of school when all I want to do is take my kids home and start summer. 

Since then a whole slew of other things have popped up that I don't have much patience for either.  Like Leprechaun Traps....decorated shoe boxes left out on St. Patrick's Day.  Y'all...what the heck???  Have you not seen what happened with the Elf on the Shelf??  Have we learned nothing?!  Next there will be bait and treasure left behind (that's not free, you know....you're going have to buy that crap....) and a lively little stuffed doll wearing all green.  You'll have to have a naming ceremony and find creative ways to dye things green all over your house.  You know what doesn't require that much work?  Wearing green on March 17.  Most of us aren't even Irish!!  Think this one through, people.  Think this one through.

Also letters to the Easter Bunny.  The Easter Bunny does not grant wishes.  He fills eggs with candy, maybe leaves one other present as long as it fits in the basket.  Easter is about Jesus.  It's enough of a stretch already that we have a large adult-sized bunny leaving treats on Sunday morning.  Let's not even call it a stretch.  Let's just call it silly.  What's next?  The Easter Bunny saddles up a team of magical flying chicks and hops aboard his carrot wagon?  They stop at the tomb first--to thank Jesus for the chocolate--and then off to fill Easter baskets!! My point is, you and I both know our budgets can't handle two Christmases, so simmer down and put those lists away.

My opinions aside, the fact that you like cupcakes or not--or any of these other things--doesn't make you a good or bad person.  When I reflect back on that disagreement a year ago I am confident no child was affected by the decision because in the end a cupcake is eaten and then it is gone.  A leprechaun box will fall apart.  A letter will fade.  But was Jesus there??  In my heart or anyone else's?  Was I able to see how insignificant the decision really was and treat the person on the other side of the argument with love, mercy and grace?  Or did I let a cupcake stand in the way of God's will?  I think I know the answer...

If I speak with the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love I am only a resounding gong or clanging symbol.  1 Corinthians 13:1

Such noise we allow in!  The things that do not matter that we make matter, the lines we draw between one another just because we want to feel right.  It's everywhere, and it is not Christ.  It's not the will the of God or the goodness He has promised us in His name.  These details will not save us in the end nor do they bring anyone else any closer to knowing Him. 

It's May now, and that means a lot is going on, especially if you have kids in school.  May there be Jesus in your busy-ness.  Amidst the bustle of all that needs to be done may there be the silence of God's peace.

XOXO....Kelly